Vancouver author and criminal lawyer Jay Clarke says his latest thriller, centred on a hypothetical terrorist attack during the 2010 Winter Olympic Games, is not only in fine taste, it's socially responsible.

Clarke and his varying co-authors, under the pen name of Michael Slade, have amassed a national fan base writing dark psychosexual thrillers that pit diabolical master criminals against a fictitious branch of the RCMP called Special X.

The inspiration for his 14th novel, Red Snow, came in February 2003, the day British Columbians voted to host the 2010 Olympics.

"They served it to me on a silver platter," Clarke said.

The terror plot in Red Snow begins when psychotic mastermind Mephisto destroys the only two bridges heading in or out of Whistler, effectively trapping hundreds of thousands of civilians.

Mephisto's collaborators then cut the power to the mountain, and the countdown to a veritable British Columbian holocaust begins.

But Clarke insists he isn't out to give potential terrorists ideas, and that his book exposes no true holes in the Olympic security plan.

"My idea wasn't to go into VANOC and find the weaknesses in their security and expose them, but go at it as an outsider, a bad guy, and think about what they would attempt."

"People involved in Olympic security can actually read Red Snow and use it as a checklist, and say we've got to plug this hole and this hole and this hole."

And after the underwear bomber's attempt to take down a U.S.-bound airliner in December, and the appeal last Thursday by the American government to watch for al-Qaeda attacks in Vancouver during the Games, Clarke says his novel plays to real concerns.

"When you look at the security situation that the Mounties have put on them, we've stretched the Olympics over 100 miles. There's skating in Richmond, hockey in Vancouver and then there's the Alpine events."

"This isn't a game, this is reality. And if anything goes wrong, there are going to be repercussions for it. Security has got to plug every single hole."

A battle of wits

Red Snow's villain is a Special X series regular, a nod to the classic literary rivalries of Clarke's childhood, including Sherlock Holmes' arch nemesis Professor Moriarty and James Bond's Ernst Blofeld.

The novel's protagonist is straight-laced Robert DeClercq, Chief Superintendent of Special X, a man Clarke describes as the quintessential Mountie.

"The RCMP were always painted as the straight arrows, fine, upstanding heroes," Clarke said. "We created DeClercq as a reflection of that history."

Readers can step into DeClercq's shoes, Clarke said, and tackle the novel's mysteries themselves, participating in their own battle of wits against the story's criminal mastermind.

"Red Snow has got seven puzzles: Two 'whodunnits', two 'howdunnits', two locked room puzzles and one dying message," Clarke said.

"You as the reader have got to solve all seven. If you don't, then Mephisto is going to succeed and he's going to wipe out the world."